Whatever way you look at it, pregnancy is pretty darn amazing. More than just growing a baby bump, your body undergoes more changes and in a shorter space of time than at any other point in your life. These changes help support the growth of your baby, prepare you for childbirth and get you ready for your first few months as a new mom. With as many hormones pumping around your body as during puberty, pregnancy is a wild and wonderful ride with both highs and lows. So what can your body expect from having a bun in the oven?
1. Your uterus grows a LOT
Before pregnancy, your uterus is about the size of a small orange. Once an egg is fertilized, higher levels of estrogen kickstart the growth of your uterus to make space for your baby. By the end of the second trimester it will have grown out of the pelvic area, to the size of a papaya. By the time you give birth your uterus will have grown 500 times its original size – about the size of a watermelon. Talk about the fruit of your loins!
2. You grow a new organ
The placenta has to be one the coolest things about being pregnant. Attached to the lining of the uterus, the placenta starts growing around the egg as soon as it is fertilized and is responsible for passing nutrients and oxygen to the baby via the umbilical cord. Vital to protecting the baby from bacteria and infections, the placenta passes antibodies from mother to baby in order to protect it for life inside and outside the womb.
3. Your heart gets bigger
The amount of blood in a woman’s body increases by almost 50% during pregnancy, and as a result, the heart increases in size (by about 12%) to pump it around the body. This increased blood volume helps to protect the baby, support its development and make sure it gets everything it needs. With all eyes on baby, progesterone increases blood flow to your little one which reduces flow and lowers blood pressure towards the brain, often resulting in dizziness or lightheadedness.
4. Your skin changes
We all know stretch marks are kinda part of the whole pregnancy deal, but they’re certainly not the only thing that can happen to our skin when pregnant. Pigmentation, where one’s skin tone actually gets darker is fairly common and can occur in areas around the tummy, armpits, thighs and often around the nipples (areola). This is caused by changes in hormone levels, which can also contribute to acne, sensitive skin and spider veins (thin red veins) on one’s cheeks. Most skin changes are short-term though and you can smooth away those stretch marks with a little coconut oil applied twice daily!
5. Your boobs get bigger
It’s not just your belly that’s showing – it’s your bosoms too! Thanks to estrogen and progesterone, women can go up an entire cup size during pregnancy. It’s not all nips and roses though, as your boobs will generally be tender and sensitive to touch for most of your pregnancy. Around the third month they’ll also start producing a pre-milk called colostrum which is the first milk your baby will nurse on and it can leak as you get closer to your due date.
6. Your vision may get worse
One of the most noticeable bodily changes during pregnancy is swelling or edema. Along with that extra blood, your body also retains more water in order to help protect the baby and soften the body as it expands. This usually occurs in the hands, face, ankles and feet, however it can also affect your eyes. When fluid builds up within the eye, the cornea and lens may thicken and cause hazy or blurred vision – but don’t worry this is only temporary! Pretty crazy huh?
7. Your pelvic floor is weakened
Imagine a trampoline with an elephant on top of it – well that’s what your pelvic floor is like during pregnancy. Supporting your bowel, bladder and uterus, the pelvic floor muscles are put under a lot of strain with the extra weight of your baby and all that excess fluid swirling around it. As a result, they can weaken and overstretch, which is why many pregnant women experience bladder leaks especially towards the end of their pregnancy.
Adding insult to injury, labor really takes its toll on the pelvic floor as its muscles work overtime to push and give way to your baby moving out of the uterus. To strengthen them, it is recommended that you do Kegel exercises both before and after labor. Before you can do them unassisted, simply contracting and releasing your muscles for several minutes a day – here’s a great guide to get you started.
About 6 weeks after labor, once you’ve healed and your health care professional has given you the go-ahead, you can use an exerciser like KegelSmart to speed up recovery and make sure you’re doing your Kegels effectively. KegelSmart works by registering the strength of your pelvic floor and uses gentle vibrations to guide you through the ideal routine for your level – so you can regain strength and tightness in no time. All hail the pelvic floor!
8. Your muscles, joints and ligaments loosen
As you approach childbirth, your placenta starts producing the hormone relaxin in preparation for the big heave-ho. Relaxin works by, well, relaxing your muscles, joints and ligaments all in the name of a smooth delivery.
Before we start singing its praises, relaxin works on the whole body, not just the pelvic area, so it can throw off your balance making you a bit more wobbly in your final trimester. When getting up from a sitting or lying down position, do so slowly and avoid standing for long periods of time to counteract this. Oh, and relaxin also responsible for that unrelenting heart-burn. Win some, lose some.
Although some of these body changes can be a little less than fun, they are usually short-term and nothing that a little exercise and planning can’t fix. Prepare to be empowered – bringing a little life into the world and growing it all in your own body, what can be more awesome than that?
Please note that advice offered by Intimina may not be relevant to your individual case. For specific concerns regarding your health, always consult your physician or other licensed medical practitioners.
A collective group of “lady experts” at Intimina who love sharing our personal experiences, even when they are a little too personal. We believe it’s time to start breaking down the taboos around menstruation, motherhood, and menopause, and start owning our female health.